Whether you're cooking a barbecue, a piece of fish or a simple roast chicken, it's handy to have an arsenal of salad recipes up your sleeve at this time of the year.
ometimes it's just the classics that I yearn for, such as a great spud salad, a really super 'slaw recipe and a salad of delicious tomatoes with some basil or mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
If it's going to be a simple potato salad, make it a stunning potato salad. Go the extra step and make a really good dressing. In this potato-salad recipe, I blend some mayonnaise with garlic, mustard (make it a punchy Dijon mustard) and herbs. Lots of parsley brings a verdant freshness and the basil makes it deliciously summery, as do the edible petals sprinkled over the top.
The fennel bulb is in season right now and is a delight when sliced thinly into salads. This fennel and mango salad is wonderful with some barbecued or roasted chicken or, of course, fish. Again it's the fresh herbs that really bring it to life, so don't scrimp on the mint.
Another vegetable in season is the broad bean. This broad bean and bacon salad is divine. A lovely balance of broad bean sweetness with the salty Feta and tangy lemon: just what I love best about summer food.
Try to look out for an Irish Greek-style cheese that'll work perfectly in these salads, such as Ardrahan Farmhouse cheese or one by St Tola or Ardsallagh.
Fennel and mango salad
You will need:
A large handful of hazelnuts
2 small mangoes
2 fennel bulbs
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Salt and pepper
200g Greek-style or Feta cheese
1 Toast the hazelnuts by cooking them in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat for 4-5 minutes until golden under the skins. Alternatively, you can roast them in a moderate oven for 5-7 minutes. Once they're golden, place them in a tea towel and rub off the skins. Discard the skins and chop the nuts roughly.
2 Peel the mangoes then cut the flesh off the spherical-shaped stone and dice the mango into 1cm pieces.
3 Trim the feathery fronds off the top of the fennel bulbs, and set aside for later. Trim and discard the base of the fennel bulb and slice the fennel thinly.
4 Place the mango and the fennel in a mixing bowl and add in the extra virgin olive oil, the lemon juice and the chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper and place on a plate or in a serving bowl.
5 Scatter the chopped hazelnuts over the top, then the feathery fronds. Crumble over the cheese, and serve.
Summer potato salad with basil and edible flowers
You will need:
400g new potatoes, scrubbed clean
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic
1 spring onion or 10 chives, chopped
A small handful of parsley
10 large basil leaves
A selection of edible flowers such as cornflowers, chive flowers, chrysanthemums
1 Place a saucepan of water on a high heat, add one teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil then add the potatoes. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked all the way through.
2 While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. Place the mayonnaise in a blender with the mustard, the garlic, the spring onion or chives, whichever you're using, the parsley leaves and the basil. Season with some salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
3 When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and allow to cool. Cut them into halves or quarters, then toss with the herbed mayonnaise. Taste for seasoning then arrange in a bowl.
4 Scatter the edible flowers over the top and serve.
Broad bean and bacon salad
For the dressing, you will need:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
For the salad, you will need:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
200g bacon cut in to chunks of about 1-2cm
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g shelled fresh or frozen broad beans
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
125g Greek-style or Feta cheese, cut into chunks of about 1-2cm
1 First make the dressing by mixing together the two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2 Place a frying pan on a low to medium heat and add in the one tablespoon of olive oil straight away and then the bacon. Cook for about eight minutes, until crispy and golden, then drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
3 While the bacon is cooking, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add in a teaspoon of salt. Add the beans and boil for just 2-4 minutes or until they are just cooked, then drain. If the beans are quite big, peel them at this stage (they'll pop out of their skins easily); this isn't essential but I think it's well worth it, as the skins can be tough.
4 Toss the beans with the dressing while they are still warm, then leave to sit for a few minutes till almost cool. Now add the cooked bacon, the chopped mint and the chopped parsley. Arrange in a shallow bowl and crumble the cheese over the top to serve.
If you have a few mint leaves left over when making a salad, place a few in a cup or teapot, then cover with boiling water and leave to infuse for three minutes before enjoying on its own as a fresh mint tea, or with a drizzle of honey stirred in.
Don't chop fresh herbs ahead of time as they'll lose their aroma and flavour.